How to Make a Boat Float for a School Project

The principles of buoyancy, weight and density are topics studied in math and science. A school project that illustrates how a boat floats in water can be designed and constructed with household materials; additional, basic materials are available at home improvement stores. A floating boat project can discuss practical information for a science project or science fair. A boat floats because the amount of water it displaces is distributed over the water surface, so its volume is less dense than an equivalent volume of water.

Lay the paper on a flat surface so that the shorter sides are on the top and bottom (portrait orientation).

Fold the paper in half by pulling the shorter end down and aligning with the opposite edge. Crease the fold by rubbing your thumbnail over the folded edge.

Fold the paper in half again by pulling the right side to the left and aligning it with the opposite edge; crease the fold.

Open the folded paper once so that the folded crease is at the top with a centre vertical crease.

Fold the top right corner down and align the corner and sides to the centre crease; crease the newly created diagonal fold.

Repeat step 5 with the top left corner to create a triangular shape with the two corners folded down.

Pull up one layer of paper on the bottom and crease the fold so that it secures the bottom of the triangle (creating a rectangle at the base of the triangle).

Fold the left and right corners of the rectangle over the sides of the triangle; crease these diagonal folds.

Turn the paper over and fold the bottom left and right corners of the free layer of paper to align with the edges of the paper that was folded over from step 8.

Pull the free layer of paper at the bottom of the triangle up, to finish the two-layered triangle.

Hold the bottom of the centre crease of the top layer and pull out, to open the triangle.

Pull the open right corner to the left and align with the opposite (left) corner to form a two-layered diamond shape.

Pull the bottom corner of one layer of the diamond up to align with the top corner and crease the horizontal fold. Turn the paper over and repeat with the remaining bottom corner to produce a smaller triangle.

Repeat steps 11 and 12.

Hold the left and right sides of the top corner and gently pull apart to open the paper (to produce a boat shape).

Cover the bottom and sides of the boat with one sheet of contact paper, if desired. Make sure no gaps or cuts are exposed by overlapping the ends around the shape.

Fill the tub with water and place your paper boat on the water surface.

Place one long piece of wood on a flat surface and place another long piece of wood on top of it (upright). Align the edges to form one side of the boat.

Glue the vertical panel to the bottom and secure it to the bottom panel with nails, if desired.

Repeat steps 1 and 2 with the other long piece of wood.

Place one short piece of wood between the ends of the two sides, making sure that the edges are aligned (flush) with the bottom and side panels.

Glue the bottom and sides of the short piece of wood to the connecting pieces. Secure the bottom and sides with nails, if desired.

Repeat steps 4 and 5 with the remaining short piece of wood to complete your boat.

Turn the boat over (open end down) and cover with contact paper or waterproof varnish, if desired.


Make an aluminium foil boat using the origami instructions (section 1). Make sure the wood glue dries thoroughly and consider reinforcing the seams (where the wood panels join) with wood glue. Weigh your boat before placing it in the water (this is the amount of water it will displace). Measure the volume of your boat (length x width x height) and compare its weight to water in a similarly sized container. Compare how various materials are waterproof by omitting covering with contact paper, weighing each boat before placing in water and weighing it after a period of time in the water (to see whether the material absorbs water and is not waterproof). Place objects that are known to sink (such as a nail) on the boat to see whether the added weight will cause the boat to sink (it should not). Compare the buoyancy of a wooden ball with the same weight as your wooden boat (the ball will be more submerged in the water).


Be careful when driving nails into wood using a hammer to avoid injury.

Things You'll Need

  • Large tub
  • Paper
  • Contact paper
  • Scissors
  • Wood (1/4 inch thick: three, 2-inch-by-4-inch and two, 2-inch-by-2-inch)
  • Wood glue
  • Optional: nails, hammer, varnish, aluminium foil, wooden ball, ruler, scale
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About the Author

Regina Edwards has been a freelance writer since 1990. She has penned video scripts, instructional manuals, white papers and abstracts. She has also ghostwritten diabetes journals. Edwards is a scuba instructor and Usui and Karuna Reiki teacher. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Saint Joseph's University.